Anti-Social Behaviour Orders can be useful tools against crime, but only with the help of pro-active policing, says Mark Wingett

Since their launch in April 1999, 5,557 Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) have been issued, with a record 897 handed out between January and March of this year.

Yet many people have questioned ASBOs’ role in fighting anti-social behaviour, saying they are not a real solution and that they are seen as a badge of honour among troublemakers, while the national media has highlighted some of their more unusual uses, such as an ASBO to stop a man from wearing a thong.
However, for many of the retailers who have used them they have resulted in a marked decrease in anti-social behaviour and an increase in staff and customer confidence. Despite their effectiveness, though, retailers say that getting an ASBO issued isn’t always plain sailing.

Since their launch, 816 ASBOs have been issued in the Greater Manchester area, the highest number for any region in England and Wales. It’s also an area in which United Co-op runs many of its stores. According to United Co-operatives group loss prevention manager Paul Winstanley, the key to obtaining an ASBO is to work closely with local police to build a complete picture of anyone causing anti-social behaviour.
Winstanley says: “Our whole approach on gaining ASBOs against individuals is based on working in partnership with local Trading Standards Officers and police to create a dossier on individuals who have caused trouble in not only our stores but the community as a whole.

“Where we have been lucky is in the fact that Greater Manchester Police have embraced the use of ASBOs and also see them as an excellent device in fighting crime.”

However, not every police force has taken such a positive approach. Many retailers report that they have come up against a brick wall in their attempts to get an ASBO issued.

Only 40 ASBOs have been issued in Bedfordshire over the past six years and Kishor Patel, who runs three Nisa stores in the area, is frustrated at the local police’s reluctance to use them.

He comments: “I applied for one last year against a youth who was persistently intimidating staff and customers. I gave all the information I had to the police and asked about taking out an ASBO. However, the situation dragged on and nothing seemed to be happening. Fortunately, the person in question was subsequently arrested over another issue but it made me question what will happen if I try to get another ASBO issued.”

Winstanley believes that the more information retailers can hand over to the police, the better the chances of success.

He concludes: “Detailed log books, comprehensive CCTV files and staff reports over a period time will give a comprehensive picture of what has been going on at your store. It will also allow you to put forward a strong case to any police force in the hope of getting an ASBO issued.”

ASBOs explained

An ASBO is a civil order which protects the community from behaviour that has caused or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons.

They can be issued to anyone aged 10 years or over.

They impose restrictions on the behaviour of individuals who have behaved in an anti-social way and protect communities from often longstanding and highly intimidating activity.

Breach of an ASBO is a criminal offence and can lead to custody. The maximum penalty for breach of an ASBO is five years’ imprisonment or a fine of up to £5,000 for an adult offender.

Since 1999 only 21 have been issued in Lincolnshire and Wiltshire compared with 405 in West Yorkshire and 408 in the West Midlands.